Poetry: Selections from John Grochalski

poem in which i have thoughts while i prepare to go running at forty-seven in twenty-degree weather
li po died while
drunkenly trying to hug the moon
good ol’ kerouac’s esophagus burst
i can smell last night’s vodka and wine on my breath
as i sit here putting on
a steelers hoodie and sweatpants
we do things but we don’t often stop
to wonder why we do them
men my age go gray and get fat
i have done both
yet still i lace my sneakers and stretch
moan from the soreness
coming from my back and legs
rudimentary getting ready to exhaust myself
in the name of vanity and pigheadedness
for christ’s sake
the sun has yet to rise in the sky!
my god
and why oh why?
when is it enough
to just become old and useless?
take a bow
and fade into the void
with a bag of doritos and a sixer of the high life?
extoll the virtues
of sitcoms and super hero movies?
the healthy life is nonsense
especially with capitalism
and toxic masculinity
trying to do us all in every day
it makes no sense to fight the tide of anything
or america
to go outside
running at age forty-seven
in twenty-degrees
dodging cars and high school kids who laugh at me
praying i don’t trip and fall
break something or smash my wrinkled face
who am i doing this for?
haven’t i lived and loved and traveled
and made what i could of the good years?
a downslope
is a downslope for a reason
and there’s always a pill
for this
or this
or that
it makes no sense
to put this snowcap on
or these gloves
cue up motivational music
or some podcast
i want to go back to bed with a bottle of anything
and watch the sun dance across my ceiling all day
i’ve been sold a lie
and you’ve been sold a lie
but i’ll see you out there on the street, my friend
and huffing and puffing
nodding as we pass each other
middle-aged morons exercising in the morning
before going off to get fucked over by work
busting our precious bodies
thinking we’re doing it right
living our best
one mile down
two miles to go
racing toward nothing
but our own exhaustion
and eventual death.

stupid guero
we are incongruous to our core
you speak in a tongue
meant to immolate me
while i stare at a wall
like it’s a hobby
put there to pass the time
america hates us both
in entirely different ways
we both have the paystubs to prove it
there should be
more love in this world, i think
irrevocable violence
gets too dull
yet you call me a stupid guero
and shake your fist in vengeance
storm off out the swinging doors
like a cartoon cowboy
as my ass itches
the sun passes to the other wall
and no matter our quarrel
the alarm clocks
will still ring
for both of us
to do this again tomorrow

true worth
sitting here
in this small office
of white walls
and insanity
at this small desk
of despair
full of breadcrumbs
left for midnight mice
my precious time
exchanged for money
to pay my bills
and rent on a place i’m barely at
i stare down at the cockroach traps
badly hidden under
heating vents
and feel
yet again
of this world’s idea
of my true value
my true worth.

poem to the man idling in his car getting yelled at by his woman
human bonds
can be so fragile
or they can be thick like iron chains
clamped down on your soul
and inescapable
save death
and she is the theatrical kind this morning
standing outside the car shouting
waving her arms like an orchestra conductor
stamping her feet
a sweating, ghoulish she-hulk
in a sunkist t-shirt and wrap around shades
you had time to take
the kids to school this morning
but you’re just leaving me on a street corner
to take a bus?
all of us sacks of shit
stumbling off to work
know your cardinal sin now, buddy.
that you didn’t just drive off
makes you an idiot or a saint in my book
life is never enough
for the people who find themselves
entwined in our own
people are bloodsuckers by nature
imagine our contentment
if we were molded to be alone
and simply stare at walls?
and you’ve been idling here too long
serving her demented pleasures
i don’t know how
you’re getting out of this now
maybe try buddhism
or reminiscing on when you and she
were young and liked to fuck
and i can’t stick around
to find out your fate
the love song of capitalism calls to me too
the ethereal hymn
of lost hours and wasted years
so good luck
god speed
and for the record, my friend
that bus stop she’s been bitching about?
it’s literally less than
a block away.

at the window
i watch a street full of them
deranged fools
in heavy jackets and hats
shoveling the snow
that has still not stopped falling
dutiful and insane
they pick up white mounds
to dump on piles
that will only blow back on them
repopulate the space
that they just cleared
and they are dumbfounded by this
they scrape and scrape
at snowdrifts anew
as cars skid down the street
garbage can lids go rolling by
electric power lines quake in the breeze
and i put back the curtains
to have a glass of cheap red wine
in the pale quiet
before noon.

John Grochalski is the author of the poetry collections, The Noose Doesn’t Get Any Looser After You Punch Out (Six Gallery Press 2008), Glass City (Low Ghost Press, 2010), In the Year of Everything Dying (Camel Saloon, 2012), Starting with the Last Name Grochalski (Coleridge Street Books, 2014), The Philosopher’s Ship (Alien Buddha Press, 2018), and Eating a Cheeseburger During End Times (Kung Fu Treachery, 2021). He is also the author of the novels, The Librarian (Six Gallery Press 2013), Wine Clerk (Six Gallery Press 2016), and P-Town: Forever (Alien Buddha Press, 2021). Grochalski currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. You can read his baseball card ramblings at Junk Wax Jay


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